American fruit growers are starting to ship more containers of fresh fruit into China again. In recent weeks, some fruit shipments were stuck in customs in China. Public radio has learned that special flights to bring Northwest cherries to China had even been canceled.
But that squeeze now appears to be lessening.
Northwest cherry growers have been really nervous. Because of recent trade tensions, a Chinese airline that usually freights Northwest cherries to China had cancelled all its flights for this season. The Chinese have imposed a new 15 percent tariff on commodities like apples, cherries and beef.
Fruit is highly perishable. Cherries last about two days without refrigeration. And in recent weeks, fruit was getting entangled in customs because of increased inspections by the Chinese. But the fruit now appears to moving again, according to the head of the Northwest Cherry Growers and Washington State Fruit Commission, B.J. Thurlby.
The Chinese airline with special flights for Northwest cherries has committed to 54 flights, just in time for the season. But because of the fresh tariffs, those cherries will still cost about $1 more per pound in China.
Last year, Northwest states shipped 3 million boxes of cherries to China—about 13 percent of the total crop. Northwest growers expect to harvest about 22 million boxes of cherries this year, slightly down from last year.